Marry in Haste by Jane Aiken Hodge

This is the third Jane Aiken Hodge novel I’ve read and my favourite so far. Based on an earlier story, Camilla, which was serialised in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1961, Marry in Haste was originally published in 1969 and has just been reissued by Ipso Books. It is set in England and Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars and has just the combination of romance, suspense and history that I am coming to expect from her novels.

The saying “marry in haste and repent at leisure” perfectly describes Camille de Forêt’s situation. Having fled to England with her father, a French Comte, and changed her name to Camilla Forest to distance herself from her French origins, she has spent several years in the home of the Duchess of Devonshire. Following the death of the Duchess, Camilla found a position as governess in another household but when we meet her at the beginning of the novel she has been dismissed from her job and sent away with no money and nowhere to go.

A chance encounter with the Earl of Leominster when his carriage passes her on the road seems to provide the perfect solution to Camilla’s problems. She needs a husband, a home and some money; Leominster (or Lavenham, as he is known to his friends) needs a wife in order to claim his inheritance. In the sort of plot development which will be familiar to readers of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, Lavenham proposes to Camilla and she accepts – on the condition that it will be a marriage in name only. Of course, it doesn’t take long for Camilla to discover that she is falling in love with her husband after all…but will Lavenham, who has a distrust of women based on a bad experience in his past, ever return her feelings?

Marry in Haste is an enjoyable and entertaining novel; it’s not particularly original (as I said, it feels quite similar to some of Georgette Heyer’s books, among others) and most of the plot twists are very predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read. The romance between Lavenham and Camilla is thwarted by misunderstandings, lies and communication problems, which makes it feel very contrived at times, but it’s satisfying overall – and anyway, things which would be likely to annoy me in a more ‘serious’ novel feel much more acceptable in this sort of book. There’s also a secondary romance later in the book, involving Lavenham’s younger sister, the lively and irresponsible Chloe, and I enjoyed this storyline too.

Most of the action takes place in Portugal, where Lavenham is sent early in the novel to carry out secret diplomatic work. Camilla and Chloe accompany him there and promptly find themselves caught up in the conflict involving France, Britain, Spain and Portugal which has been escalating in Europe. There are some lovely descriptions of Portugal and enough historical detail to give the reader a basic understanding of the Peninsular War, but the focus is always on the characters and the relationships between them. I was disappointed that Lavenham kept abandoning his wife and sister for long periods while he was away on undercover work, but I can see that it was necessary for the plot and enabled them to have some adventures of their own while trying to escape the French and make their way back to the safety of England.

I’m looking forward to reading more Jane Aiken Hodge as so far I’ve only read this one, Strangers in Company and Watch the Wall, My Darling (three very different books). I already have a second-hand copy of Red Sky at Night on my shelf as well as another new reissue, First Night, from NetGalley – and I think it’s time I tried her sister, Joan Aiken’s, books too!

Thanks to Ipso Books for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.

22 thoughts on “Marry in Haste by Jane Aiken Hodge

  1. Calmgrove says:

    Joan Aiken wrote sequels to Austen novels — I’ve got Jane Fairfax on my TBR pile — and also a YA trilogy set partly around the Peninsular War (I think The Teeth of the Gale is the first one, a sort of Kidnapped set in Spain. You might possibly enjoy any of these too! Good to see her sister Jane is getting a share of the limelight again!

  2. Pam Thomas says:

    I read a lot of Joan Aiken Hodge’s novels when I was a teenager, but found I grew out of them, they were too light and fluffy for me. But her sister Jane’s books, although superficially similar, are much better in my opinion. Her series of children’s books beginning with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase are classics, she was a poet as well, and she wrote quite a lot of adult historical novels which are very entertaining and are much more than pale Heyer imitations.

    • Helen says:

      It seems there were a lot of authors I missed out on as a child/teenager, including both Joan Aiken and Jane Aiken Hodge (as well as Rosemary Sutcliff, Elizabeth Goudge and even Georgette Heyer). I’m just catching up with them all now, so I haven’t grown out of them yet! I’ll look forward to trying Joan’s books as you think they’re better. And yes, those names are confusing!

  3. elainethomp says:

    I, too, have read both sisters. I enjoyed Jane A Hodge’s work but they remain at ‘get from library’ enjoyable. I’ve bought quite a few Joan Aiken books. Joan’s work is a lot more variable in every way: tone, subject, character, so if you don’t care for the first thing you try, try one in a different category. Or start with some of her short story collections. In many ways I prefer her at short lengths.

    The YA trilogy set in the Napoleonic era starts with Go Saddle the Sea I remember enjoying it, but not so much the sequels. The previous poster named the last one above.

    Of her adult novels that I read I particularly remember The Weeping Ash for it’s creeping horror feel.

    i know lots of people love love love the WOLVES chronicles, which is a YA (I guess, they were in the kid’s section of the library before YA became a thing) alternate history where the Stuarts never lost the throne and Hanoverians are always making trouble, but I find it very uneven. Starts more or less humerous, and goes grim and bizarre. I like the first two Wolves and Black Hearts in Battersea then skip to #6 The Cuckoo Tree when rereading. I also think they really went off the rails with the last several. And there’s a companion book that peripherally intersects the main story in #6, titled The Whispering Mountain which I love and many don’t as they bounce off the assorted cant/dialect/weirdness. Why I can take that weirdness when the just as outrageous weirdness of mainline entries to the series (#3, 4, 5) bugs me, I don’t know. Maybe it’s that it’s set in Wales.

    • Calmgrove says:

      Fascinated by your thoughts on the Wolves Chronicles, particularly as I’ve been rereading, reviewing and discussing them in sequence over a number of posts — just about to start The Cuckoo Tree.

      I’ve been lucky in getting some feedback from Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, and while she may quibble over the odd detail mostly it seems I’m along the right lines!

      I agree, it does get pretty weird towards the end, but I hope to rationalise a lot of the, at times utterly fantastical, tangents she goes off on, though I doubt I shall be able to quite explain it all away!

    • Helen says:

      Elaine – Joan Aiken does seem to have written a wide variety of books, so I’ll bear in mind that if I don’t choose the right one to start with it will be worth trying again with something else. I don’t often read YA these days, so I’m drawn more to her adult novels, but I do want to read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – I feel as though I should have read it as a child, but somehow I didn’t.

    • Helen says:

      I think Joan is much better known than her sister. The general opinion seems to be that her books are better too, so I’m looking forward to trying some.

  4. Lark says:

    I like these kinds of books. I’ve read more novels by Joan than by Jane, but not enough of either. Your review of this one makes me want to find a copy so that I read it, too. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I hope you’re able to read this one, Lark. I’ve enjoyed all three of the books I’ve read by Jane and am looking forward to reading something by Joan. 🙂

  5. piningforthewest says:

    I really must track down her books as I’ve been enjoying her sister’s books. I think I might have read some decades ago.

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